At A Glance: Other Garlands

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This is a very big porch, that features a pair of large Branch boxes. Lacking a garland, this front door would look uninviting. A front door that makes a strong welcoming statement at the holidays is a front door that anticipates holiday gatherings between family and friends – that front door says come inside! A holiday landscape is celebratory. Friendly. And most of all, warm. A porch of this size is a lot of brick, stone and wood. Some green helps to warm the space. The magnolia garland is simple, and is lighted. Warmer for winter?  This makes sense in my zone.

holiday garland with a wreathA wreath at the top of the garland adds a lot of visual weight. This wreath has lots of materials attached to it. Though the garden has gone dormant, a holiday expression born from the garden is a pleasure all around.

holiday and winter garlands (1)I cannot explain why I am drawn to anything that has grapevine on it.  Rob found a local artisan who has been covering steel topiary forms and spheres with grapevine for the shop. We cannot keep up with the demand. A roll of grapevine provides incredibly stability and strength to an evergreen garland. The strength of a twirling roll of grapevine reflects the strength and purpose of every gardener. Our warm December aside, our holiday weather can be very cold and blustery. A grapevine adds a lot of volume to a garland with very little mass. Lights on that grapevine help to illuminate all of the other garland elements evenly.

holiday garlandAn artificial garland is fine on a covered porch.  Exposed to the sun and elements, an artificial garland will fade, no matter how beautiful it represents the forms and shapes of the real thing.

holiday and winter garland (2)With multiple garlands, plain and simple can be very effective. If I wind garland around a column, I like enough length to make a puddle of greens on the ground. I wind the evergreen garlands in opposite directions, given pairs of columns.

holiday and winter garland (11)Southern magnolia garlands have a strong visual presence. Those large glossy green leaves with their velvety brown obverse are beautiful.  Magnolia branches, leaves and garlands will dry.  Those glossy dark green leaves turn to a pale green, and finally to bronze. They curl as they dry. The leaves stick tight to the branches, all winter long. In mid December, a fresh magnolia garland is a delight.

DSC_7011My garland at home is different every year. This past year, faced with a number of leftover pink eucalyptus bunches, I took the plunge for pink.  After adding some orange in the way of copper curly willow to the mix, I was surprised at how much I liked the look.  A garland is usually viewed from afar. This means  big gestures and bold color choices may be pleasing.

garlandGarlands can be incredibly heavy. Hanging a garland is always in defiance of gravity.  A hanging mechanism is essential.  Years ago I would ask my clients if I could drill into the mortar between their bricks, and set screws to hold the garland. I have had clients forego garland, as they were worried this would damage the integrity of the brick, or be noticeable the remainder of the year. I can report that those homes where I have been hanging garlands from screws set into the wall for 20 years are still standing. A proper hanging mechanism is not only necessary, it makes the hanging easier.

holiday garlandIn this case, a light fixture over the door bore most of the weight of the garland. A substantially thick stone surround to the door provided a safe ledge for this garland.  Any garland more complex than this would require fasteners set in to the wall. So much of what is beautiful at the holidays and into the winter is the beauty of the construction and installation. I find this is true of anything in the landscape. A beautifully imagined dream for a landscape only becomes a dream come true when it is properly planted, or installed.

holiday and winter garlands (2)I have a particular interest in making and hanging holiday garland.  I would guess that springs from the idea that I need to wrap my winter season in something not only beautiful, but warm. The gray and the cold is next up for my garden-and me.  I am not a fan of the dormant season.  That said, I do what I can to make the winter a little more tolerable.

the front door for the holidayYesterday we planted tulips and daffodils for this client. We also hung a garland, and installed cut Christmas trees in their pots. The garland and these trees are lighted.  Their front door at dark will be welcoming. They are also ready for the spring. We planted lots of spring flowering bulbs. They are ready for holidays, and the coming of winter-and the spring to come. Every great moment in the landscape twinkles.

 

The Garland

evergreen holiday garlandA handmade holiday garland is a labor of love. There is so much involved. Expect to need lots of zip ties, and nimble fingers.  I do buy my mixed fir garlands already made up, at my local farmers market. But that length of cut boughs all strung together with twine is just the beginning.  We routinely add our own cut branches to the existing garland, so it is very thick. Warm for winter is a given. For this 50 foot garland, we split the garland in two, flipped one side, and reattached the two pieces at the center. This makes the direction of the greens face down equally on both sides.  I am not a fan of a garland whose branches go up one side, and down the other. That roller coaster approach disturbs the visual rhythm.  All up facing branches, or all down facing. Decide which look you like. A garland is too much work not to take seriously.

December 10, 2015 007Lots of our garlands are wrapped with grapevine. A 50 foot evergreen garland will take a pair of 35 foot rolls of grapevine.  Yes, we roll the vines around the garland in opposite directions, from the center. Grapevine is incredibly strong and resilient. We zip tie the loosely wired evergreen garland to that grapevine every few feet.  This creates a garland that is very strong, no matter how many pine cones you pile on. That grapevine is incredibly strong. It is a great vehicle for a string of lights. One 72 foot strand of 1000 warm LED garland lights will completely illuminate a 50 foot garland in one fell swoop. We attach the lights to the grapevine.  The grapevine stands proud of the evergreen garland.  The light encircling the evergreen garland will illuminate it.

20151209_120833A garland needs to be properly scaled to whatever architectural feature it means to celebrate. Big garlands are incredibly heavy, and require a number of people armed with ladders to install.  It is my good fortune that Buck sends his fabricators from Branch over to me for several weeks, during garland hanging season. Their fabricating jobs at Branch has given them a good idea of what it takes to accomplish a solid construction and a great finish. Once they hang a garland, they rearrange every element we have attached to it in a pleasing way.  Everything we wire on a garland is loosely wired, so we can rearrange once the garland is aloft. I can construct the most complicated work in the studio-those Branch men know how to get it up in the air, beautifully.

holiday garlandHanging a long and heavy garland may take four people. Yes, we do drill and set screws where we need to. A winter garland is a beautiful way to celebrate the winter season. It needs to stay in place the entire winter, through the snow and winds.  Do I leave garlands up all winter?  Oh yes.  A garland can tell a story about a garden, and a gardener. A thick garland adds a lot of warmth to a garden season which is dormant and cold.

DSC_6934A garland framing a doorway is welcoming and festive at this time of year. I would not do without a winter garland over my doorway at home. I often think about how any gesture in the garden is so much a response to a gardener’s relationship with nature. The garland framing my doorway tells all who enter that the garden welcomes them.

recent work (18)What I think about when I see this detail of a garland we install is about the relationships have been forged over the gardening season past. These materials reflect the taste of my client. Our good relationship makes it important to me to represent them as best I can. The winter is no gardeners favorite season, but there are lots of ways to celebrate and enjoy the off season. Warm and generous comes first.

holiday garlands 001We do all of the construction of our garlands in our garage. The approach to the work is such an important element of construction. We set all of our garlands on a string of cardboard boxes, at a height which is comfortable.  These artificial garlands to which we have added other elements will be installed indoors for the holidays have gotten a personal signature based on the taste of our client. Red, green, and white, she says. We are happy to oblige.

holiday garlands 004These bleached ponderosa pine cones are a major element, both in size, and in color. They are the organizing metaphor around which every other element – the sage green eucalyptus, the tallow berries, and the red berries – provides a supporting cast.

holiday garland (3)Those elements which get attached to a winter garland are wired together.  We decide in advance the frequency with which we attach them.  Typically, the spacing at the top is closer together than the spacing at the bottom.

DSC_6907At the top of this archway, every color and texture element essential to this garland is massed together. That density will fall off as the garland descends. I do not mean to imply any rule. This is a construction which I think looks good to my eye.  Every gardener needs to trust their own eye, and proceed accordingly.

holiday garland (1)Our construction in the shop is not so fancy.  The garlands get set up on a collection of cardboard boxes we reserve for this purpose.

holiday garland (2)The additions to the evergreens may have a number of elements.  I try to err on the warm and generous size and spacing.

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DSC_6791winter garland

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Jan 6 2013 (16)Every year I install a garland on the shop of one type or another. Once the snow comes, our building looks snug and warm. The garlands over the windows are eyebrows of the garden sort. The best moment of any garland is what nature bestows in the way of winter weather. This is my idea of  great winter garland.  Yours might be entirely different. No matter your idea or construction, a winter garland is a way to warmly wreathe, and breathe, over the winter to come..

Home For The Holiday

holiday 2014 home (5)I know my work season is coming to a close when I am able to do my pots and front door for winter.  I had a chance to take Rob over there this morning to see them.  My crews-busy with the year end details.  The trip to the front door was a pleasure for me.

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holiday 2014 home (1)The daytime look, subtle and warm. The night light-you’ll see.

Sunday Opinion: Good Hands

hanging-a-garland.jpgWatching this garland go up yesterday, it occurred to me that the real story of our holiday landscaping is about the people who make it all happen.  Rob, Sunne, Monica, Christine, Shannon, Scott and Margarita make sure that Detroit Garden Works is stocked with every material we might need. From fresh cut great quality greens,branches and cones, picks in every conceivable color and style, lighting both stock and custom made, to zip ties and bamboo poles in bulk, this wide range of materials makes it possible to put a look together.  If you shop at Detroit Garden Works, you probably have put the names with the faces, as they do such a great job of interacting with people.

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The people who work for the landscape design and installation division, Deborah Silver and Co, work behind the scenes. They do all the fabrication, and installation of our projects.  It may be startling that a group of people who know how to lay out a landscape, plant, and finish an installation know how to construct and install winter and holiday containers and garlands, but they do.  Each one of the eight of them has their particular strengths. To their great credit, they all know how to work well with one another to bring a project to life. They certainly deserve the lion’s share of the credit for everything we do.

holiday-garland.jpgThe columns are quite beautiful.  They did not need anything in the way of decoration. My preference was that the garland would seem to drop at the outside edge of the porch roof. The fascia would need enough screws and concrete wire to hold the heavy garland.  Owen and David, who usually take the lead in an installation, added a pair of vinyl covered steel poles at either end. This would provide an armature that would take the garland wide of the columns.

holiday-garlands.jpgFour people and 4 pairs of hands made the business of getting the garland aloft a graceful and fairly quick affair.  All of the design and fabrication issues had been dealt with in the garage. All of the installation issues were reviewed and planned on the ground. It was easy to locate the center of the porch roof.  The dentil molding on the underside of the overhand was symmetrical.  This garland would be hung in the center first, and then progressively, out to each edge.

holiday-garlands.jpgEveryone involved with hanging the garland could rely on the integrity of the fabrication. The top, bottom and front face of the garland was clearly marked.  The plug for the lights was on the left side, as the only exterior electrical outlet was on that side. Every element, even those we attach on long wires to permit rearranging, were securely attached.

holiday-garland.jpgIt was a pleasure to watch the four of them work. While we 5 were on this installation, 3 people were in the garage, working on our next project.

holiday-pots.jpgWe did put lighted winter containers on the porch, on either side of the door.  The porch roof makes this a dark spot, in spite of a ceiling fixture. A pair of wire baskets were lined with moss sheeting, and filled with mulch and soil.  The centerpieces were comprised of several bunches of cut pussy willow. Fresh cut magnolia and gold poly mesh  added another layer of interest.  AG does most of our exterior lighting and hookups.  A strand of lights tucked behind the magnolia would light the pussy willow at night.  A strand of garland lights would illuminate the mixed noble and silver fir. An extension cord was place right next to the step up into the house, and covered with a door mat, for safety’s sake.

garland-detail.jpgThe garland detail

holiday-decorating.jpgA pair of pots with boxwood had been on the top tier of the stair pillars.  We moved them down one level, so all four pots would be visible from the street.

holiday-garden.jpgThe crew that made and installed this garland is a highly skilled crew indeed. They have expanded their skills in ways of which I am very proud. We have worked together a long time, and it shows.

night-light.jpgMy clients sent me this picture last night. They are pleased, and so are we.